Big cat sighting: Oakham couple spot panther-like cat in woods
ESSEX may have grabbed the lion's share of attention but Leicestershire is not without its own reports of big cat sightings.
An Oakham soldier and his wife spotted what they believed to be a large cat prowling through the undergrowth at Wakerley woods near Corby.
A few days before, a sighting had also been made in Barnack near Stamford.
Samantha Timms and her husband Kevin, who live in Army barracks in Edith Weston, reported what they had seen to Leicestershire police, as they were concerned for the safety of other people and livestock.
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It was about 8pm on Friday, (August 31),in the evening when they saw the animal, while out walking their dog in Wakerley woods, a popular destination for cyclists and dog walkers.
Samantha said: "We were walking through the woods when my husband saw something and thought it was a black Labrador, but when he got closer he realised it was much bigger.
"I told him to stop messing about, as I didn't believe him at first. When I saw it, it was only about 150 yards away and I know what I saw.
"A few people I have told since thought it was funny, but I know what I saw. When you see a deer, as soon as you get close it runs away, but this turned and looked at me.
"My husband wanted to follow it but I just wanted to get out of there. I just wanted to run and I never run anywhere.
"It was black or dark brown, a bit bigger than a labrador and it had a long tail. The most striking thing about it was the way it walked, it prowled, like a cat."
Samantha said she was too stunned to think about taking a picture and the animal was gone before it had crossed her mind.
Both encounters were reported to Nigel Spencer, who runs Rutland and Leicestershire Panther Watch.
He said: "What concerned the people in Wakerley woods was the fact that the animal made no attempt to run away, it just stood and looked at them.
"As for the Barnack siting, that was made on bank holiday Monday morning and could well have been the same animal. It was a Labrador dog-sized black cat, possibly black leopard, observed at 50 yards range for about 10 seconds.
"There have been scores of sightings by the public and rangers in Wakerley woods and nearby Fineshade since the early 90s, although I hadn't heard of a recent one. The woods are massive and sit on the edge of Corby."
As for the Essex cat, Nigel says he is certain the lion was more likely to have been a mountain lion or puma.
And he added: "This would almost certainly have been a Mountain lion (Puma), mistaken for a lioness, of which many have been seen in Essex dating back to the 90s.The two look similar but have a totally different feeding pattern and attitude to humans."